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|Introduction to World Chess Federation (FIDE) Zones|
|The World Championship qualifying cycle starts with zonal tournaments organized by FIDE zone|
(June 2005) In our introduction to the World Chess Championship (see the link box at the bottom of this article under 'Glossary'), we noted that the qualifying cycle starts with tournaments known as the zonals. Winners of the zonals qualify into the next stage of the championship cycle. Zonals get their name because they are organized by FIDE zone.
FIDE membership is open to countries, not to players, and the FIDE zones are based on member countries. The FIDE Directory 2003 listed 166 countries split into 21 geographic zones, further aggregated into 4 continents. Each zone has its own officers and administrators. Our first table shows how zones are distributed by continent.
Some zones correspond to single countries. The national championships of these countries serve as zonal events.
Zone 1.6 Russia
The first digit in the zone number is the continent, so Russia (zone 1.6) is located on the European continent. See the link box again for a complete list of zones and countries. Some zones include many countries.
Rules for qualification into a zonal tournament are the administrative responsibility of each zone. This is sometimes done by holding preliminary subzonal events, which can be the national championships of the countries in the zone.
How are the world's players distributed by zone? The next table, derived from the FIDE Rating List for January 2005, shows that almost 60.000 players have been rated by FIDE.
The rest of our discussion is based on the total number of players, inactive players included. A few notes to the table:-
Of the 142 countries with rated players, 76 have less than 100 FIDE rated players, while 20 countries have 10 players or fewer. Which countries have the most rated players? This table shows the top-10.
Although the country codes are largely self-explanatory, the codes are documented in the 'List of FIDE Zones' (link box again). Since most of the countries on the top-10 list of players are located on FIDE's European continent, it's no surprise that Europe has the largest number of FIDE rated players and Grandmasters (GMs).
The same information is shown by zone in the last table. Zones representing single countries are marked with an asterix ('*').
Using the zonal qualification structure, any player in the world has the opportunity to climb the ladder and to become the next World Chess Champion.